This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.
When the idea for what is possibly the greatest airline advertisement of all time was presented by Saatchi & Saatchi to BA, it is existed solely as a rough scribble on a single sheet of paper.
BA had asked Saatchi to prepare a new blockbuster advertising campaign. Saatchi had presented two ideas, which by its own admission were fairly unremarkable, to an unimpressed BA.
They then pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Out came a crumpled piece of paper bearing a sketch with the fairly unappealing sight of a disconnected smiling mouth, an eye, and a nose and a scribbled face.
But BA bought into the idea. And so “The Face” was born.
The advert was directed by Hugh Hudson and filmed in Utah using local school children with a budget of £1m. Saatchi & Saatchi called on the choreographer of the Los Angeles Olympics opening ceremony to direct the movement of the participants.
To the sound of “Aria On Air” by Malcolm Mclaren, the voice-over by Tom Conti, says “Every year the world’s favourite airline brings 24 million people together.”
Save for the roar of Concorde at the end of the advert, images and sounds of aircraft are entirely absent. The advert was seen by 600 million people in 70 countries.